Hey, have you ever witnessed an earthquake? No? Ok, what about a slight tremor? Have you ever suddenly found yourself struggling to maintain your balance as the earth under you literally vibrated? If you have never experienced an earthquake, it could be a really moving experience. I am not talking about the slight rattling of cupboards or shelves when a very slight tremor occurs like the kind of shaking that you would expect if construction workers suddenly started to drill with their heavy drilling equipment on a piece of real estate close to you. I am talking about a real earthquake such that entire buildings begin to vibrate as though they would suddenly fall apart; the type that makes the floor under you dance around as though you were standing on a trampoline.
Ok, I am not trying to scare you here, but we had an earthquake here today. In the middle of the workday, around 1:50pm, I noticed that the floor under me was moving. At first, I didn’t even know what to make of it. Was it that a train was suddenly tearing through the neighborhood? Was it a jetfighter whizzing past at so low an altitude that the building began to rattle? Was it a sudden stampede in the building caused by the hooves of a thousand bulls? All of a sudden, I began to hear horrified screaming from the people around. At that point, I knew that something was up.
You see, we hardly get earthquakes here. You can get the occasional slight tremor—a faint ripple that is hardly noticed by most people. But even that is a rare occurrence. So, I suppose I could be pardoned for not immediately realizing that we were actually experiencing an earthquake at the time. So, when I heard the screaming from the people around, I started to leave my office to survey the surrounding environment to see what exactly was happening. Just at that moment the major force of the earthquake hit for the second time. This time around, there was no mistaking it. The earth indeed was giving way under me!
At that point, my self-preservation instincts kicked in. The tiles on the ceiling started to crash to the office, and the blinds swayed as the windows shook. I must admit, I have never really drilled myself in self-preservation strategies to employ in the case of an earthquake. You were taught or shown what to do in case of a fire, a robbery, trauma and accidents, hailstorms, and or sudden power failure—just not earthquakes. So, the first thing I did was to crouch low and roll towards the sturdiest and strongest object in the room. If everything was suddenly swinging around, your natural instinct would be to go towards something that seemed to offer the greatest stability. The cries and screams of the people in adjourning offices increased. And just as soon as it started, it ended, much to everyone’s relief.
I got up immediately and started running towards the stairwell. I did not need to be told that the elevators would be dysfunctional at this time. As I passed a few offices on my way to the exit, I stopped to see if anyone might need help. You know, you never can tell if someone suddenly found him/herself trapped under some shelves or something. In one office I looked into, a young woman was crouching by the closet with a baby. I approached her and asked her to come with me so that we could leave the building in case there was another wave coming which might indeed start tearing the building apart. The woman was much too terrified to move, and she clung to her baby tenaciously.
Already, as I could tell, people were already crowding in the stairwell, and I wanted to make sure I got out of the building on time before something else happened. While she was still dillydallying, I reached out, picked her baby from her arm, and shouted behind me “Come on, don’t stay here. We have to go!” With that, I left her standing there and rushed out of the building.
Luckily the worst was over. People stood around rattled but relieved as they chattered away about this 5.8 magnitude quake that has just transpired. No one was injured at all. After about 15 minutes, the mother of the baby came outside and walked up to me with a nervous smile. She began to express her gratitude but I cut her off.
“Hey Ma’am, you put yourself in danger there you know. Anything could have happened with the building’s structure” I interjected hastily.
“I know, but I was too scared. I’ve never experienced this before” she muttered breathlessly.
“But you are okay, right? No broken bones or anything?” I asked jokingly trying to make her feel more at ease.
“Yeah, I think I’m gonna be alright” she smiled weakly. “I’m going to call my husband to find out if he is okay and if he experienced the same thing”
I handed her baby to her, and without much ado, walked back to the building to survey any possible damage.
All I could think after a brief survey of the damage was the hope that the property owners had some form of earthquake insurance.